Steve Pounds (left) and his son Michael, who represents the fourth generation of Pounds
Founded in 1914, Pounds Motor Co. had built its business by catering to citrus farmers in central Florida. But when two big freezes wiped out nearly all the grove businesses in the 1980s, Pounds Motor's long history of innovation didn't seem to matter any longer. Or did it?
Innovative products and services had helped make Pounds an influential name in citrus farming circles. In fact, dealership founder Hoyle Pounds came to be known as "Mr. Tractor." When the citrus groves started to be replaced by subdivisions after the 1980s freezes, the lawn and garden business was a natural transition for Pounds Motor. To make the transition as seamless as possible, the dealership would again focus on service innovation.
Today Pounds Motor is owned by Hoyle's son Herbert, whose son Steve serves as vice president. Steve's brother Jim and cousin Brian also work in the business. Steve's son Michael represents the fourth generation.
Steve says Pounds Motor Co. had a lot of adapting to do when it transitioned to the lawn and garden business. "There were many more homeowners and landscapers than there were citrus farmers," Steve recalls. "Their customer service demands were a lot higher, too."
But before Pounds Motor even had to worry about serving its potential new—and considerably larger—customer base, it had to get some customers in the door. It started focusing on Snapper, which it had already been selling for many years. In fact, Hoyle had helped manufacture and distribute the world's first Snapper mower. Pounds Motor is the oldest Snapper dealer in the United States. The dealership-in-transition also brought on two commercial mower lines, dropped McCulloch in favor of a high-end handheld brand, and began carrying a few more lines to round out its product offering and compete against box stores by hitting some lower price points.
It wasn't long after the showroom was transformed that homeowners and landscapers began pouring into the store. Real estate developers were all over the abandoned citrus fields, and the residential market was growing fast. Pounds' new customer base grew right along with it.
Reflecting on the dealership's long history serving citrus farmers, Herbert and Steve knew that the key to winning over their new residential and landscape customers would be service. But taking care of such a large customer base was unchartered territory for Pounds Motor. Several changes would need to be made if the dealership was to live up to its new customers' higher expectations.
"Back in the citrus days when our farming customers broke down," Steve tells, "they understood that the equipment might take some time to repair due to its size and the typical nature of the problem. Plus, they usually had backup equipment to keep them going. Our customers today are more demanding. They want their equipment repaired as soon as possible. A few commercial customers do have backup equipment, but most don't."
To reduce their new customers' downtime, Pounds Motor expanded the size of its service staff. Now it keeps five technicians on staff. Two are assigned to commercial equipment, one is assigned to homeowner equipment, and two others help out when/where needed. The dealership has also designated a service manager to keep service department production running smoothly.
Even so, as the old saying goes: "You're only as good as your help." Steve relates, "When transitioning our customer base to homeowners and landscapers, we raised the pay of technicians to attract more experienced candidates. We also began sending our techs to seminars and classes for continued education so they can keep on top of the latest equipment designs and repair procedures." The dealership also likes to keep its shop updated with the latest tools to keep technicians productive. For instance, a parts cleaning system was recently purchased.
What really sets Pounds Motor apart from its competition is its machine shop—something that's carried over from the grove days. Back then, the dealership would build customized implements for the citrus farmers. Now Pounds Motor builds racks to hold blades and handheld equipment for landscape contractors, while also making repairs to trailers and performing metal work on mowers.
After being renovated three years ago, the dealership now features a clean, modern-looking, 7,000-square-foot showroom, along with new offices, and parts and service areas. An expansion is being planned for this year. "We feel the future is very promising," Steve says. "All around us you see subdivisions going up. Where there used to be citrus trees you now see lines and lines of new homes.
"From the 1980s to present," Steve continues, "we still run our company in the same friendly atmosphere we always have.
Calling customers by name when they come in, talking to them about their personal lives and just making them feel like one of the family is an important part of what we do." It will continue to be an important part of what Pounds Motor continues to do as Michael takes the reins within the next 10 years.